MEP for North West England
Saj was born and grew up in Lancashire, North West England. He has always had a strong interest in politics and at an early age campaigned for the local Conservative candidate in his home town.
He went on to qualify as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1997 and became a partner in several specialist law practices across the North West of England, including his own practices in Pendle and Manchester.
His first taste of political life came when he was elected as a local Councillor on Pendle Borough Council in May 1994. He served in this role for eight years, during which time he held many key chairmanships.
First elected to the European Parliament in 2004, Saj was re-elected in May 2014. Since becoming an MEP, Sajjad has established an enviable reputation on the European stage. He represents more than 7 million residents of the North West of England – covering Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire.
In 2009, Saj was promoted to the Conservative front bench in the European Parliament as the Legal Affairs Spokesperson. In this position he is continuously working towards improving the law-making process and reducing the administrative and bureaucratic burden across the European Union, something he feels is essential if the European Union is going to be more responsive to the needs of its people. This is particularly significant as almost half the legislation passed in the UK and other EU member states has its origins in the EU. He is a firm believer that decisions made by the EU should be taken as close as possible to the citizen.
Through his legal affairs work, Saj is acutely aware of the important relationship between the European Union, industry and business and the need to reduce the legislative burden on British business. He believes that the foundations of economic recovery for Britain will only be achieved through initiating change in the European Union.
Every month he visits a wide range of companies in the North West to gain an understanding of how he and the European Parliament can assist them through the legislative process.
In October 2011, Saj was appointed as the European Parliament rapporteur on a report that will look at improving the law-making process across the EU. The ‘Better Legislation’ report is aimed at freeing up businesses from un-nessesary EU bureaucracy, which will help 1000′s of small businesses across the North West and millions of others across the UK and EU. It was voted through the Legal Affairs Committee in July 2012 and was approved in September 2012 by the full European Parliament.
The recent ’Better Legislation’ report follows Saj’s earlier report on ‘Smart Regs’, which was adopted by the European Parliament in 2011 and deemed it essential that costly and often unnecessary EU regulations on business are reduced or removed, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.
In his legal affairs role, Saj has also been instrumental in ensuring the adoption of European-wide patents by the Parliament. This means that protecting new innovations across much of the EU will soon be a great deal cheaper and easier. This plan will allow 25 out of the 27 EU countries to go ahead with a single patent under a so-called ‘Enhanced Cooperation’ procedure.
In 2012, Saj was made Parliamentary rapporteur on a new report looking into improving the audit process across Europe. The report, presented in September 2012, addresses the shortcomings of the audit market and aims to strengthen audit quality and provide investors with the information that they need. It also looks at improving transparency, allowing more competition and ensuring less scope for conflict of interest between different audit firms.
Aside from legal affairs, Saj champions the vital role played by the EU developing and facilitating International trade between the EU and the wider world. As the European Parliament’s original rapporteur on the free trade agreement with India, Saj has authored two trade-related European Parliament Reports on EU-India Trade Relations and the EU-India Free Trade Agreement.
Both reports maintain the need for human rights to be integral in any trade related agreement that the EU has with another country. Saj’s persistent work to tackle child labour and ensure that it is recognised as an international trade issue, underlines his passion for those causes which interlink trade and human rights.
Saj was the first Muslim from the UK to be elected to the European Parliament and is Co-Chair of the European Muslim Forum. In addition to his committee work, He founded and Chairs the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan Group, a group designed to provide a forum to share and discuss issues of common concern and mutual benefit between the EU and Pakistan. He was a key player in Pakistan receiving aid and a reduction in trade tariffs from the EU following the devastating floods that affected the country in summer 2010.
Saj is a member of the European Parliament Friends of India Group, the European Parliament Friends of Bangladesh Group and Vice-Chair of the Friends of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Group, which enjoys observer status at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
In November 2008, whilst visiting India as part of a European Parliament International Trade delegation, he was caught up in the Mumbai Attacks in the lobby of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.
In December 2011, Saj was appointed as Chairman of an ad hoc delegation from the observation of trials of journalists in Turkey. Saj and other EU Observers visited Istanbul to monitor the cases of journalists who are standing trial in Turkey for alleged collaboration with terrorist groups.
In February 2012, Saj was one of five MEPs to be appointed to a panel to police new code of conduct rules that will govern the behaviour of MEPs. The Advisory Committee will provide guidance to MEPs and advise the Parliament’s President on what steps to take in the event of alleged breaches of the code.
Saj made headline news in December 2012 when he played an instrumental role in securing the return of 6 year-old Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson to UK from Pakistan following abduction by her father. Over several weeks Saj worked closely with Greater Manchester Police and the Pakistani authorities and Atiya was returned safely to her mother during the Christmas holidays.
Saj works industriously in his constituency, be it campaigning with local party members or working along-side local businesses. Having a strong global perspective he is committed to reaching out beyond the North West and the EU and strives to bring international benefits to the EU and particularly to the North West of England.